Green landscapes and rising temperatures may be sure signs of summer, but along the Maine coast, there is one more indication that the season with the most fun in the sun has arrived – lobster boat races.
With their powerful boats in tip-top shape, lobstermen look forward to participating in these races up and down the coast and prepare for the adrenaline-filled opportunities with a serious focus that is exceeded only by their pride in the traditional occupation of lobstering.
On June 19, 2011 an armada of lobster boats poured into Rockland Harbor for Rockland’s annual lobster boat races. Some came as racing participants while others as spectators, but regardless of their intentions, the lobstermen, along with their families and friends, shared a common goal – to bask for the day in the realm of speed.
Observing the scene along the Rockland Breakwater prior to the races, it was evident that there was plenty of logistical planning that went into establishing the race course and that safety was a paramount goal of all involved.
In addition, the sparkling appearance of the lobster boats and the way their engines hummed without missing a beat paid tribute to the detailed preparation of the participants, which varied in personality as much as the classes of boats assembled.
From elusive skiffs 16-feet and under to intimidating diesel-powered work boats 40-feet in length and over – some able to reach speeds in the 50-plus knot range, there was no shortage of competition and intrigue for this uniquely popular event.
As I sat atop the Rockland Breakwater with my family observing the races, I realized that one did not have to be a lobsterman, or even know the names of the boats, to find this spectacle immensely entertaining.
Yes, we could read the names of many of the boats as they sped by parallel to the breakwater toward Jameson Point, but the real thrill was derived from the heightened moments of quick-burst action and the sound of cheers skipping across the water as these mighty boats competed.
On their way past our vantage point, first there was the impressive sight of whitewater being pushed to a froth as the bows of lobster boats cut through the brine – only to be followed by wakes deep and wide that sent mist flying in the air, and the wonderment of spectators, with it.
I knew there were winners and losers in each heat of the lobster boat races, but in the end, I couldn’t help but think that everyone – from the spectators on rafted boats and the Rockland Breakwater to the participants themselves, was a winner.
For when the last boats cut their racing engines and their wakes disappeared behind them, it was evident that a proud Maine tradition had once again shone brightly in Rockland Harbor.
The race winners were now able to carry the mantle of champion while the others dreamed of a future rematch, but come that Monday morning, all of the lobstermen shared one more common goal –it was time to get back to hauling traps.
Maine tradition is good!